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Post Malone Is Done Compromising: The Superstar Gets Real at His Mountain Hideaway

To make his new album, 'twelve carat toothache,' Post Malone had to rediscover his creative spark: "There was a switch that flipped"

It’s well past 2 p.m., and nothing seems to wake Post Malone. Not the sound of shovels cracking into his iced-over driveway. Not the stylist assembling racks of designer clothes or the camera flashes lighting up his entryway. Not even the smell of pounds of piping-hot Raising Cane’s chicken.

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For the 26-year-old superstar, who often stays up until 10 a.m. playing video games when he’s not on the road, this is normal. Three years ago, when Post moved from Los Angeles to his near-seven-acre mountainside sanctuary in Utah, his inner circle was hoping he would enjoy this kind of peace. His infectiously positive father, Rich Post, says the move “was a big sigh of relief for the parental figures,” while co-manager Dre London, an Olympic-level multitasker who has been with Post since day one, calls it “the best thing for him — he can have a life.”

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Yet Post — once he does, finally, groggily arise — admits that others in his orbit were less enthused. “People wanted me to stay in L.A. — that’s where the work gets done — but I was fed up,” he says, cradling a freshly poured beer. (Throughout our near-eight-hour hang, he’ll have at least half a dozen.) “There’s always something to do, and someone always wants something from ya — and I didn’t want to go crazy.”

Making big moves, then watching them pay off, is all part of the Posty plan. When he was 18 years old, right after dropping out of community college, he moved from Grapevine, Texas, to L.A. “You try to be as supportive as you can,” says Rich, “so I said, ‘That’s great, son. Whatever you want to do, just be the best at it.’ ” (He is now Post’s unofficial house manager and lives 15 minutes down the road with his wife and stepson.) By the time he turned 20, the artist born Austin Post had a breakout hit: “White Iverson,” a hazy, introspective tune he uploaded to SoundCloud in February 2015 that, within a month, had over 1 million streams on the platform. A few weeks after that, Post (then rocking sports jerseys, gold teeth and braids) played in front of a few thousand people at South by Southwest — and soon became a bona fide star.

He takes bold swings through genres, too, jumping from the spacey, melodic hip-hop of “Sunflower” (a Swae Lee team-up from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) to the fuzzy alt-pop of “Circles” (from 2019’s Hollywood’s Bleeding, which boasted collaborations with Ozzy Osbourne and Father John Misty). He has collected two Billboard 200 No. 1 albums and four Hot 100 No. 1 hits, three of which placed on Billboard’s Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs ranking: “Circles,” “Sunflower” and “Rockstar” (featuring 21 Savage). To date, his catalog has amassed 26.5 billion on-demand U.S. streams, according to MRC Data.

Along the way, he became an unlikely fashion star, trading his jerseys for Tom Ford suits and skirts while covering his face in an ever-growing collection of tattoos, including the words “Always Tired” just under his eyes. Hence the sleepy mountain sanctuary.

Post Malone
Catherine Hahn custom shirt and dress, Tom Ford tie, Ralph Lauren socks, Dr. Martens shoes and Balenciaga earrings. Eric Ryan Anderson

Tucked away at the end of a steep uphill drive, Post’s home offers stunning views of Salt Lake City’s mountainous skyline. Inside, it is a 26-year-old’s vision of what an alpine man cave should look like: dark decor, a giant taxidermic bear, antler light fixtures, countless pieces of Dallas Cowboys memorabilia and a bar with Bud Light — and only Bud Light — on tap. There are boxes of cards from the fantasy game Magic: The Gathering strewn on a desk, a pantry stocked with Costco-size boxes of snacks, a gingerbread house on the kitchen counter and a guest bathroom that’s running low on toilet paper.

Post once considered installing 30 bunk beds for the various family and team members who come and go, including his dad; his half-brother, Jordan, who makes a brief appearance during Billboard’s visit to take Post’s German shepherd, Britt, out for a walk; his personal assistant, Ben Bell, who is also the brother of songwriter-producer Louis Bell, Post’s main collaborator; his personal photographer, Adam DeGross; two other members of his management team, Jay Santiago and Bobby Greenleaf, whom London calls his “eyes and ears”; and various security personnel, some of whom parade in with bags of Bed Bath & Beyond linens in anticipation of holiday guests.

When Post isn’t working, he’ll watch Ghost Adventures, Modern Family or Korean crime shows. (One of his all-time favorite movies is Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. He was so taken with John C. Reilly’s suits in the film that he sought out its costume designer, Catherine Hahn, and hired her in 2018 as his stylist.) He’s hoping to set up a friend date with Paul McCartney soon — “Just to see, ‘What are you thinking about, dude? What are you up to?’ ” — but he mostly hangs with buddies from local gun shop Gallenson’s Guns and Ammo. “We go out and just run around in the open country and do cool s–t,” he says matter-of-factly as he warms up by his fireplace.

Post Malone
Eric Ryan Anderson

But over the past two years, there’s one thing Post Malone has hardly done: make music.

In theory, the peace and quiet of Utah was supposed to be good for his creativity. “Here,” he says of his abode, “there are very few distractions.” But his four-year sprint to the top of the charts, as well as the onset of the pandemic, left him on the brink of burnout and increasingly anxious. “You think about everything at the same time, and it’s f–king overload,” he says. “There’s a lot riding on the music. There’s a lot riding on just being able to keep making songs. And that’s hard to do because you’re like, ‘F–k — I already talked about everything.’ And you kind of run out of ideas, and that’s scary s–t.”

He worried the spark would never return. “I used to love playing the guitar — I hardly play the guitar anymore. I used to love making beats,” he says. It took a few low-key visits from Bell, during which they would mess around in his home studio, for him to find his way back. To make his imminent new album, twelve carat toothache, Post had to rediscover what made him want to do this in the first place. “There was a switch that flipped, and it felt like I was making Stoney,” he says, referencing his 2016 debut album. “I lost that, and the hardest part is getting it back. It ebbs and flows. It’s figuring out: ‘Just because I’m not inspired to do it at the moment doesn’t mean I’m giving up.’ ”


Just a few steps from Post Malone’s main house is another building: his two-floor home studio. Downstairs, a lounge area is decorated with Louis Vuitton throw blankets and an acrylic foosball table; the second floor is the recording booth, with empty cups and various guitars. Etched into the wooden floor is the word “bulls–t,” which can be illuminated with a single switch, also labeled “bulls–t.” It helps take the pressure off: His job, Post sometimes reminds himself, is just “making s–tty music.”

It’s a drastic difference from eight years ago, when Post was one of many creatives sharing space and resources at a San Fernando, Calif., hub dubbed The White House. Technically, it was a mansion, but space was in short supply — Post slept in his closet to devote more of his room to recording equipment. It’s there that he crafted “White Iverson,” along with housemate/co-writer Rex Kudo and other collaborators. It’s also where London, who started managing artists in his native England before moving stateside, first met Post in 2014, just before the song’s release.

Early on, London thought about keeping the Post Malone operation trim to build Post as an independent act. “I looked at that Chance and Pat route heavy,” he says, referring to Chance the Rapper and his former manager, Pat Corcoran. “But Post said, ‘I want to be a millionaire.’ So when you hear that and you’re grinding — I’m looking ahead two, three years — we made a decision [to sign to a major]. A bidding war started, and it was kind of hard to ignore. He started hearing some numbers, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I like the sound of this.’ His exact words were ‘Daddy likey.’ ”

Post Malone
Bottega Veneta jacket, Ralph Lauren turtleneck and Balenciaga earrings, Angel City Jewelers ring. Eric Ryan Anderson

Post signed with Republic Records in 2015 after Tyler Arnold, now executive vp of A&R, discovered him online. “I reached out to Dre the day I heard ‘White Iverson,’ ” recalls Arnold, who was 22 at the time. “I remember Dre telling me in that first conversation how Post would be one of the biggest artists in the world.” Soon enough, Post and London were dining with Republic’s core team in Beverly Hills, Calif. “When Post ordered a bucket of Bud Light with dinner, I knew he was someone I was going to like,” says label co-founder/CEO Monte Lipman. Republic pitched itself as a support system for the vision already in place. “We kept reinforcing [that] Post and Dre rely on their instincts,” he adds. “We also crystallized our position that we’d remain incredibly patient and support Post’s creative endeavors.”

As Post worked on Stoney a whole creative community began coalescing around him. Austin Rosen, the founder of management company Electric Feel, known for its roster of hit songwriters and producers, met London just before “White Iverson” blew up; he heard about Post through Kudo, one of his producer clients. “Post was staying at his house, recording, and Rex called me up like, ‘You got to come immediately and meet this kid,’ ” recalls Rosen, standing in the expansive front yard of his Miami home, a few days after the Utah hang. “As soon as I came back out to L.A., I met him — and he was right. I was chasing [London] down because I was like, ‘I’ve got to find this guy and figure out how to get involved.’ ” (He wasn’t the only one interested in doing so: In 2015, it was reported that 300 Entertainment vp of A&R and research Az Cohen, who brought Post to 300 for a meeting that same year, was co-managing the artist, though no label or management deals materialized. Cohen and 300 did not comment.)

Around the same time Rosen entered the picture, London introduced another of Rosen’s clients to Post: Louis Bell. London had enlisted Bell to edit vocals for Post’s feature on a 50 Cent track in 2015, and once Post heard what Bell had done, he told London: “I want this guy to do my whole album.” They worked on Stoney at Electric Feel’s West Hollywood studio space, and now, says Rosen, the two are “inseparable creatively.”

Post Malone
Post Malone photographed December 15, 2021, in Salt Lake City. Eric Ryan Anderson

By 2017, the year after Stoney arrived, Post signed a co-management deal with Electric Feel. (Today, the company offers management, label and publishing services.) Having two management companies steering an artist is a little unusual, but to the key players involved, it works just fine. “Electric Feel was always there,” says London. “These guys helped make it easier and formed a nice family around Post in the background.” Rosen, who is credited as a co-writer on some of Post’s biggest hits, says they play different roles: “I’m really in the music industry because I want to be a part of the creative process more so than the business process, and that’s why I chose to manage writers and producers at first. What I bring is identifying people they can trust, people who can really add value.”

The way Post sees it, “They both do their thing. Dre might be a little bit more of the social aspect and Rosen might be a little more behind the scenes, but everybody carries their load and that’s all you can really ask — and at the same time, having a friend, someone you can talk to.”

That kind of trust has helped Post navigate the sometimes tricky pop machinery around him. “It’s so hard,” he says. “You lose a lot of the artist nowadays because a lot of people have so many genius ideas, but you lose a lot of that through everything that might happen with the business side — and you lose a little bit of yourself. Every time you change your art and your way of thinking for someone else’s, that takes a little piece of yourself off every time. I feel like I’m trying to rebuild.”

Post Malone
Celine shirt, Comme Des Garcons shorts, Heaven earrings. Eric Ryan Anderson

One of the ways he’s doing that is by making his shortest album to date. Twelve carat toothache clocks in around 45 minutes — hardly brief, but relatively slim in an era where overstuffed hip-hop albums frequently dominate the charts. For Post, the goal was twofold. He wanted to avoid filler, which he believes he has had on prior releases. The new songs “speak more to how I’m feeling at the moment: the ups and downs and the disarray and the bipolar aspect of being an artist in the mainstream,” he says. Bell describes the record like a synesthesiac, calling it a marriage of “molten lava and fire” and “cyan blues and whites.” “The duality, the balance of everything, I think that’s what makes this album feel like it’s glued together,” he says.

Post also wanted to rebuke a numbers-obsessed streaming business that he has come to feel prizes algorithms over artistry. “Trying to shove 20 to 25 songs, it doesn’t work. Talking to the label [it’s like], ‘Oh, if you have less songs, you’re not going to stream as much,’ but the whole thing is that you don’t want to compromise your art and your gut vibe on anything,” he says. (Earlier this month, London wrote on Instagram that Republic, which did not respond to questions about the album’s length, was holding up the album: “We did our part!” ) “I’ve made a lot of compromises, especially musically, but now I don’t feel like I want to anymore. I don’t need a No. 1; that doesn’t matter to me no more, and at a point, it did.”


Not too long ago, Post Malone dropped $800,000 on a rare, non-playable Magic: The Gathering card. “It’s stupid, but I wanted it,” he says, holding it up. But he also knows that, sometimes, he has to spend money to make money. For his 2018 beerbongs & bentleys tour, his team dropped $13,000 on fog alone, his creative director, Lewis James, told Billboard in 2020. For his 2020 Billboard Music Awards performance, James estimated they spent $80,000 on fireworks. “Post is all about having a good time,” London says, “from when I met him when he was 18 years old to now.”

Post Malone
Catherine Hahn custom shirt and dress, Tom Ford tie, and Balenciaga earrings. Eric Ryan Anderson

But lately, Post has been thinking a lot more about what a sustainable career — and a sustainable life — looks like. It’s partly what drives him toward so many ventures outside of music: He single-handedly made Crocs cool again when he partnered with the shoe brand in 2018. (He has since released five collaborations with the company.) In May 2020, he launched a rosé wine, Maison No. 9, and in August 2020, he became a co-owner of Texas-based Envy Gaming. He has a streetwear brand called Trading Post Apparel, and this year, London reveals, Post will launch his very own beer, the flavor profile of which is currently being tested.

“No one knows for sure like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be good [financially],’ ” Post says, “but I like to hope that with what I have done so far, my family is good, everybody’s good for generations to come — with frugal spending and getting rid of some of the bulls–t that I don’t need.”

He and his team have discussed selling his catalog, as many superstars are doing for tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, though no deals are yet in place. “It’s smart, it’s showing growth, and it’s showing stability in music again,” London says. “So I do like it, and have we thought about it? Of course. But every artist and team has to know when the time is right to make that decision — and there’s always a number.”

“It’s got to be a lot of money,” says Post, taking a long drag from a cigarette in a hand wearing a $3 million pinky ring pulled for the day’s photo shoot.

Post Malone
Eric Ryan Anderson

His touring business remains lucrative. In 2019, Post had the top R&B/hip-hop tour of the year (and 17th overall), grossing $75.9 million from 55 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore. Before the pandemic halted live performances, his abbreviated Runaway tour, in support of Hollywood’s Bleeding, raked in $54.9 million — the fifth-top-grossing tour of the year (based on a tracking period between Nov. 1, 2019, and Oct. 31, 2020); he’s working on turning footage from it into an upcoming concert documentary.

Not being able to tour for so long slowed Post’s creative process for the new album, says Bell. “That was always his biggest thing, him saying, ‘I don’t really want to put out music if I can’t tour, and I don’t want it to be old by the time I go on tour.’ ” He has slowly returned to the road on the festival circuit, headlining Chicago’s Lollapalooza in August and then Day N Vegas in November, after Travis Scott canceled his appearance following the deaths of 10 fans at his Astroworld Festival the previous week. “The promoters were pressing us on Sunday, then Monday, and they needed an answer because it was the next weekend,” London recalls. “I thought, ‘You know what? Maybe it will be a good break for him to go to Vegas, perform again and fill in for Travis after a horrible situation that we wouldn’t wish for anyone.’ It was showing support to our fellow musicians and our fellow concertgoers.”

Post says he hasn’t been in contact with Scott, with whom he has collaborated in the past, but adds that he hasn’t really been in touch with anyone outside of his inner circle these days. “I got a new phone and have like 30 people in my contacts,” he says. “A lot of my artist friends I haven’t spoken to. Quavo I haven’t seen in forever, but whenever I see Quavo, I’m like, ‘F–k, dude, let’s go!’ So much love. You really learn to appreciate [those moments together] even more.”

He did recently spend time with Republic labelmate The Weeknd, with whom he released the vengeful “One Right Now,” their first collaboration and the lead single for twelve carat toothache. London, who’s credited as a co-writer on the song, hopes it won’t be the last time the two work together, as he has considered booking them on a co-headlining stadium tour in the past, though nothing is in the works. (The Weeknd will embark on his own stadium trek this summer.) “I want to wait until 2023,” he says of Post’s official return to touring. Rosen thinks a tour could be a launching pad for a deluxe version of the new album. “We’d rather make another moment out of it,” he says, “so people can really dive in.”

Post Malone
Big Bud Press shirt, Marni pants, Lucchese boots, Jewels Among Thieves earrings. Eric Ryan Anderson

Post talks about getting back on the road with some ambivalence. He describes the eventual tour for twelve carat toothache as something “looming over” him. “I love touring and I love meeting my fans and singing these songs with them, but at the same time, it’s such an ass-kicker. My back kills me, my neck kills me, my feet kill me. There’s a lot to think about, and there’s a lot to focus on. You kind of have to have chameleon eyes and look every which way and keep track of what’s going on at all times. It’s the give-and-take — you give up so much and you receive it in love, and that’s what everything is about: feeling loved. That’s what everybody wants.”

When asked what he’s most excited about, Post describes something that sounds an awful lot like retirement. “A ranch and solar panels, or a hydro-powered living situation,” he says, a grin spreading across his face. “Kicking it, nothing to do … I’ve made music for years and years, and down the line, I just want to relax and enjoy the simple things. Be like a kid again. Have no responsibilities and everything is handled: your kids, your family, everybody is set and doesn’t need to worry, so you can just play games and play in the tall grass.”

For now, here in Utah, at least, he’s allowed that dream in doses. As the various crew and team members from the day pack up and load out, Post trades his designer garments for a pair of sweats and an oversize shirt with a cat face. Just before the door to his back room closes, he settles into his ergonomic gaming chair — ready for another long night of playing until the sun comes up.

Post Malone
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This story originally appeared in the Jan. 29, 2022, issue of Billboard.